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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Signal Management Plans

Executive Summary

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has prepared this guidebook to assist transportation agencies across the country in better managing their traffic signal systems through systematic alignment of maintenance, design, and operations activities and resources. It provides step-by-step instructions for documenting current activities, relating them to the agency's goals and transportation objectives, and offers a structure that shows how the activities of all staff involved in traffic signal management support those objectives.

Research has shown that in effective traffic signal programs there is a strong connection between doing what's most important in the context of limited resources and the extent to which a department’s activities are planned ahead to achieve specific, objectives (FHWA, 2009).

The idea for this guidebook grew out of the findings of the National Traffic Signal Report Card (NTOC, 2012). One finding from the analysis of responses by agencies to this self-assessment of their traffic signal operation and management was that almost no agencies in the United States have a formal traffic signal management plan (TSMP). The majority of agencies have master plans for pedestrians, bicycles, local specific plans, city-wide general plans, and regional and statewide transportation plans, while fewer have ITS master plans. These are almost entirely aimed at supporting capital improvement programs, and most are required by various Federal and State regulations. Surprisingly few have comprehensive plans of similar quality to guide maintenance, design, and operations of their traffic signal systems.

Based on FHWA's broad experience with agencies across the country, it has become clear that agencies with some form of strategic plan that covers their traffic signal systems tend to have better organized operations and management of their traffic signal systems.

A well-organized traffic signal management plan will provide multiple benefits to an agency. It will also:

  • Document what traffic signal maintenance, operations, and design staff do, why they do it, and how their activities support the agency's goals and objectives.
  • Provide a firm basis to support maintenance and operations as well as capital budgets.
  • Facilitate succession planning and integration of new staff into the organization.
  • Specify a logical framework within which staff training can be planned and organized.
  • Help agencies become less dependent on key individuals, reduce ad hoc procedures and provide organization and structure for the agency’s activities.
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